By the time they are 12 years of age, 90% of Irish children will have a smartphone (Bielenberg, 2017). This rise in smartphone ownership has meant that mobile technology has become an integral part of our daily lives. Indeed mobile technologies are so ingrained in the life of students, that they impact on the manner in which they communicate, socialise, find information, access college resources and spend their time (Chen, Seilhamer, Bennett, & Bauer, 2015) (McHugh, 2016). While students now have greater access than ever to academic resources, “digital technology can also be a distraction for students from their college work and study” (Kettle, et al., 2016). With the pervasiveness of mobile technologies, college students are increasingly encouraged to multitask, dividing their attention between competing activities such as; texting, gaming, socialisation, web browsing, study and/or absorbing lecture content (Puente & E., 2017). However, while the current generation are more frequent media multitaskers than previous generations (Judd, 2013), studies by Ophir et al. ((2012) cited in (Felisonia & Godoi, 2018)) show that today’s students are misled into believing that they are effective multitaskers as they ‘juggle’ socialisation, communication and web browsing without allowing sufficient time and attention for course work and study. Given that we have “limited resources available to attend to, process, encode, and store information for later retrieval” (Sana, Weston, & Cepeda, 2013), it is no wonder that studies demonstrate evidence of negative correlation between the effects of technological multitasking on learning and academic performance (Wood et al. (2010) cited in (Felisonia & Godo, 2018)). Furthermore, a positive correlation has been demonstrated between an increase in the amount of technology screen time and isolation/depression (Bielenberg, 2017). A study in 2017, showed an increase in Irish students seeking “help with depression, anxiety, relationships problems and academic issues has reached unprecedented levels ... a 40 per cent increase in demand for counselling over the last 10 years, with waiting lists for counselling services at many colleges” (Thompson, 2017). While researchers continue to investigate how smartphone usage impacts on students’ learning, academic efforts and mental health issues, this study seeks to probe the student’s own self-reflection on and self-awareness of the impact of smartphone usage on their academic study and course-work.
In this paper, the perceptions of 35 first year Arts students and 40 third year Arts students regarding the academic impact of their smartphone usage are presented. During this study, the authors outline a comparison of students’ views on how smartphone usage:
• affects their attention at lectures,
• influences study, coursework and assignments and
• impacts on their resulting academic grades.
The students were also asked if they believed that their academic performance would improve/dis-improve if they reduced their smartphone usage. This study is especially interesting in that it presents the contrasting perceptions of students at the beginning of their college journey compared with those embarking on their final, degree year.